Maybe This Time…

I try to participate in Nanowrimo every year.

By that I mean, I get at least one hour down the pike before giving up. Sometimes I get a couple thousand words in. And a few times I’ve gone all-in, and finished that novel with hours to spare.

I’m subscribed to the OLL blog and last year I was pretty active in my little writing group here in Copenhagen. During (and after) the Big Event, I kept hearing about these amazing people who had not only managed to write a novel in a month, but had managed to rework it, polish it, edit it, send it off to an agent or publisher, and sell it. Some of the people in my writing group were preparing to self-publish their work.

All this made me take a long, hard look at my previous novels. What I found was – lack.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 1: I seem to recall I started on this one rather late. A young man receives a very rare book from his dead grandfather, along with a note saying he has to protect it at all costs. In finding out what, exactly, the book is, why some people want to destroy it and others want to protect it, he ends up getting into all kinds of trouble.
What it lacked: Substance, really. While my main character did a lot of things, I don’t think I ever clearly explained why it was he had to do them, who was after his book, or what it was all about. It was an entertaining story but I’m not sure I’ll revisit it.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 2: It took me four years to complete a Nano challenge again. I’ll admit I was a little surprised, since I had no idea what I was doing and had absolutely no plan until November 1. My story centered around a vampire protagonist who was the main villain of a gothic novel – only she didn’t want to be the bad guy. The book followed her efforts to become self-aware and change the plot, with the help of some (and hindrance of other) secondary characters.
What it lacked: Although I enjoyed writing it as a humorous piece, I don’t think this will make it to a publishing house in its current incarnation, because it lacks originality. A vampire we can sympathize with? Been there, done that. Characters of a novel becoming self-aware? Likewise. It was fun to write a mock gothic novel, but the angle isn’t enough. I’ve got plans for changing this one, but not this Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 3: Emboldened by my success the previous year, I decided to try re-writing the second novel I ever completed. When I was 16, I produced an irritating, plotless adventure that even I didn’t really understand. It focused on a young girl who had a singular magical ability, and forged an unlikely and disapproved of friendship with the nearby magician’s son. I then spent the next six years trying to figure out what to do with it. I always liked the characters, but needed something more substantial for them than the wandering adventure that I had. So I made her the subject of an early-teen marriage to an older man, had them placed in a powerful position at some foreign court, and put in some mystery. Oh, and then I killed her.
What it lacked: I liked the way the manuscript started. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do from there. The decision to add in a little murder came towards the end, and then I realized what I really wanted – my novel was supposed to start with the murder. That led to something entirely different that won’t resemble, in any way, the mess I began six years ago. This manuscript lacked certainty. It’s something I hope to bring back to its latest incarnation – and maybe I’ll finish it this time.

This year’s novel: After a little tribulation, I decided to go with what I described in my book blurb # 1. It’s not the most original premise of the ones I posted, but I picked it because it has strong characters. That means they won’t be waffling around while I’m trying to figure out where the plot goes next. I have a clear picture of them all in my mind, so I won’t have to force actions on them or think up a reason or two. The plot doesn’t really have an unsolved mystery, which I’d have to figure out before the end, and it doesn’t have complicated magic, science or world views.

I’ll be blogging daily during Nanowrimo, in an attempt to stick to my word count. I’ll probably vent some frustrations about writers block, the cafe where I’ll do most of my morning writing, balancing Nano and thesis, and so on. I know that there are fellow Nano’ers out there in the blogosphere; maybe we can all put together a support group of some kind.

Anyone interested in Nano support, let’s hear it. Problems in previous years, trends you’ve noticed, suggestions for some kind of group…

Nanowrimo Book Blurb # 3: Predestination

Samantha Goodwin has always known the shape of her life. That’s what you get when you grow up in the most powerful witch clan in the entire country. She knows when she’ll be sick, she knows when the frosts will kill the harvest – she even knows the day she’ll die. Everyone in her family knows it. It doesn’t make life terribly exciting, but then, what can you do? Everyone is content with (or at least resigned to) their lot in life.

At least, until he shows up.

A scruffy, scrawny boy on the run in a parallel universe somehow breaks the barrier between worlds and ends up in Samantha’s lap. Literally. The witch clans of his world insist that he must be executed. He is predestined to, after all. But Samantha finds herself helping him cheat fate and forge a new destiny, one that defies the power at the heart of her clan.

And if he can make his own choices, why can’t she?

***
I scribbled this one out on a late night train to the little town north of London where I’m staying. I just spent a full day at the British Library so my mind was in need of a thesis break and some creative output.
The idea didn’t spend long months fermenting in the back of my mind. It just rushed out. It came out of nowhere and will probably go nowhere.
Because I basically opened my brain and this story fell out, it’s not big on crazy metaphors or complicated, slightly creepy relationships. In my mind it’s a simple action/adventure/urban fantasy/parallel universe kind of story. No confusing, swirling narrative technique – just a straightforward, linear story line about a girl and a boy and the fabric of the universe.
That makes this much better nanoing material than the last book blurb, or the last novel I tried to actually write for Nanowrimo. Nothing needs a lot of deep thought, not at first. Things just have to happen. They don’t have to be terribly complicated.
I’m considering a love triangle aspect. Considering it. Love triangles are tending towards the overrated these days in terms of subplots, and so many stories have them. It would probably depend on what happens when I start writing, whether I can keep the excitement going or find myself flagging.
Is there enough material here to keep me going for 50,000 words and 30 days? What else does it need?

Nanowrimo book blurb #1

What do a prince, a magician and a cook’s assistant all have in common? Nothing – until their collective home is destroyed and they find themselves on the run. 

The low-born Marianna thinks herself fortunate to get a position as a cook’s assistant at the most prestigious finishing school in the country. Serving up the country’s future leader’s and magicians isn’t as glamorous as she thought it would be, but she can handle the scathing comments of her “betters.”

Things only become really difficult when an unknown force attacks the school, intent on abducting a prince in attendance there. In the chaos Marianna escapes – and somehow finds herself the protector of both the school’s most arrogant magical student and the prince, disguised by enchantment.

In their bid to reach safety they’ll have to work together, come to terms with who is better than whom and, most importantly, reach a consensus on breakfast.

***

So. Nanowrimo isn’t for another couple of months, thank God. I never know what I’m going to actually write for Nanowrimo until I sit down to write on November first. Or second. Or third.

But book blurbs are things I have always loved to read and write. The perfect book blurb makes you want to open the book instantly and immerse yourself in the world you have been promised – and for me, writing a book blurb for a novel I have yet to start makes me excited to actually get writing.

So tonight, I decided to put up a possible book blurb for a possible Nanowrimo novel. I hope to do it a few more times before the actual novel writing starts, as a way of putting ideas out there/asking for suggestions.

I came across this idea as a sort of take on the quest theme. The main character, instead of being some kind of chosen one or having some kind of unique talent, is possessed only of her brains, wit, and quick ability to chop onions in a crisis. For once, an ‘ordinary’ character has to take care of ‘extra-ordinary’ ones.

I like this role-reversal because it means the characters themselves will have to   come to terms with it. To the prince and the magician, this girl’s only function in their previous life was to serve up lunch. Now she is their caretaker. They have to look up to her.

While thinking this story over, I decided that the prince was probably a nice enough guy. It’s part of that chivalry business. So he would have a much less difficult time adapting to Marianna’s sudden relative power. But the magician – he’s a problem. He can’t face the idea that a common kitchen wench might be better at something than he is. So when his magic fails (which it inevitably does – we’ve got to level the playing field somehow) he has a lot of thinking to do.

In my brain, this is a comedic turn on the classic quest, a young adult type novel. Who knows whether it will ever be written, for Nanowrimo or otherwise?

What do you think? Is it fun for anyone else to write a book blurb? And if you could give this book a title, what would it be?